An award ceremony was held at East Hampton’s Veterans of Foreign War’s Post 5095 on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 to honor Katie Devlin Tietjen (HKHS ’99) as local VFW Teacher of the Year for 2019-20, along with teachers from other grade levels. That evening it was also announced that Katie will be Connecticut’s 2020 VFW Teacher of the Year for the high school level, and is now competing for the National VFW Teacher of the Year.
In attendance, among others, were proud parents Phil and Betty Devlin, of Haddam. “Of course, we are proud of her selection as the state’s VFW teacher of the year, especially because of the rich legacy of military service in our family,” said Phil. “Katie is directly descended from combat veterans in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War I; additionally, both of her grandfathers as well as 8 great uncles and a great aunt were on active duty during World War II. Her paternal grandfather was a career military officer who was also called to duty during the Korean War. Her maternal grandfather was in the Coast Guard for over 22 years and earned a Bronze Star during World War II in the Pacific. Numerous 2nd cousins were involved in the Vietnam War, including one who eventually became the director of the SEALS training school and another who was a Green Beret serving both in Vietnam and in the Gulf War.”
Katie and her husband Matt Tietjen met in British Literature with Mrs. Deb Miles at Haddam Killingworth High School in the fall of 1997. “Higganum was a great place to grow up,” said Katie. “In high school, I loved being a swimmer and throwing discus and shotput on the outdoor track & field team. I got to take a lot of interesting classes in high school, including auto shop, journalism, and a history elective about the 1960s.”
Prior to becoming a Media Specialist, Katie was an English teacher in middle and high school for ten years. This is her sixteenth year in education. “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was little,” said Katie. “I saw how good my parents were at being teachers and how important their jobs were.” Katie’s father, Phil, was a teacher of English, Latin, and History at HKHS for 34 years, and her mother, Betty, was an English teacher at Haddam Killingworth Middle School for 24 years.
Besides her parents, she said that she had many good role models in teaching here at HKHS. “In high school, Jim Daniels, Gay Fialko, and Paul McCormick were particularly influential and inspiring to me,” said Katie.
John Kennedy, the state chairman of the VFW, explained that one teacher from each grade level (elementary, middle, high) is awarded at the state level from all of the local VFWs. Katie was chosen because of “her commitment to the community,” as well as her PTSD awareness. “She went above and beyond,” said Mr. Kennedy. There will be a convention in June where she will receive the state award.
When asked how Katie was chosen, Eric Verner, Principal of East Hampton High School, where Katie teaches said, ” Katie was recommended overwhelmingly by members of the Teaching Staff. As a brand new principal to East Hampton, I went to the staff for their input.” He went on to say, “What stands out to me is that Katie loves working with kids as well as her passion for all things literary. She loves working with both students and teachers and the Library Media Center is always full of classes or Katie is in a classroom working with students. She is incredibly deserving of this honor.”
“My favorite thing about my current job is matching kids up with books they love,” said Katie. “I have amazing colleagues; I love working with them to design and teach all sorts of different units and lessons.”
Photo of Katie receiving the award by Phil Devlin. Other picture provided by Ms. Tietjen.
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